The hot springs are but one draw to 4UR ranch in Wagon Wheel Gap, near Creede. The ranch hosts guests for multi-night vacations, offering guided horseback and fly-fishing tours. Photo courtesy: 4UR Ranch

On the road through the canyon lands of southwest Colorado, in an off-the-map place called Wagon Wheel Gap, hides an oasis reserved for the chosen.

In her quintessential guide to the state’s mineral waters, Deborah Frazier writes that avid soakers will often attempt to approach 4UR Ranch: “Alas, the rules prevail and unregistered visitors are politely turned away.” No day passes sold here. The ranch requires at least a three-night commitment — and the sort of money for which miners once flocked to the area.

In 2018, the bill was $1,200 to $4,400 for one hoping to enjoy 4UR’s hot springs and the ranch’s many recreational and luxury spoils. While the rules prevail, so too does the vision of Gen. William Jackson Palmer.

His fundamental doings in Colorado Springs and Durango are better known, but Palmer also made a name for himself here beside the Rio Grande. He bought the springs in the late 1870s, creating the destination that would attract Walt Disney, John Wayne, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Julia Child.

The dreams that carried Palmer to make Colorado Springs a “Newport in the Rockies” were the same dreams that carried him here. He aimed to build a health spa that could rival any in Europe, a resort that would rise to Broadmoor proportions.

While nearby Creede enjoyed its silver boom, legends of Wagon Wheel Gap’s healing waters and trout-teeming streams spread fast. Frazier’s research led her to a 1901 letter to the Denver Times editor: “Away with your Newport! Away with your Manitou! ... Give us some Wagon Wheel Gap!”

Palmer’s 1904 renovation included an elegant stone bathhouse, which inspired the design of today’s pool and fitness area. Guests also soak in the pool at the center of the outdoor deck. Palmer would be proud of the meals included in the vacation stays: fancy gourmet complemented by an extensive wine list.

The springs are a highlight, but they’re not the primary sell at 4UR, with guides lined up for horseback rides and fly-fishing excursions. In their Adirondack-style cottages, guests awake to days full of adventure and relaxation.

Address: One Goose Creek Road, Creede, 81130

Contact: 719-658-2202, 4urranch.com

Getting there: Going south on Interstate 25, exit for U.S. 160 west and continue to South Fork. Go right onto Colorado 149 north and follow for about 13 miles to Wagon Wheel Gap. Just past town, turn left onto Goose Creek Road, taking the gravel road to the ranch.

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